HULU Plus Streaming Video - Why I Pulled the Plug
Hulu Plus -- Offered in the Roku Channel Store
How to Make an Informed Buying Decision
Most people, when offered an opportunity to try a product or service for free, will accept that offer, even if they intend from the first to cancel after the trial period. The ‘Free Trial Week’ offered by Hulu Plus streaming video service seemed a good way to test the service and discover if I liked it well enough to add the monthly cost of $7.99 to my budget. This offer would allow me to make an informed buying decision before making a commitment to pay.
In spite of (or perhaps, because of) the fact I worked for a major telecommunications/cable TV corporation for twenty-two years, I do not subscribe to cable as a retiree. I understand why it costs so much, but still don’t think it’s worth it…especially to me. I also know why a la carte is off the table, and that’s a deal-breaker.
Instead, I use a Roku device (a reasonable one-time expense to purchase) that allows me to watch streaming video services on my only TV set. I subscribe to Netflix streaming service ($7.99 per month) and Acorn Online TV streaming service ($49.99 per year, equivalent to $4.17 per month). These two services provide plenty of viewing options, including children’s TV show episodes and movies that my great-grandchildren enjoy when they visit me, for an annual cost that is less than $150.
TV Set + Roku = Frugal Entertainment
Two Current TV Shows I Like
One Advantage of Hulu Plus over Netflix
However, there is a downside to both Netflix and Acorn: having to wait at least a year or more to view the current season of favorite TV shows. This gives Hulu Plus a distinct advantage. The day after the latest episode of the series ‘Blacklist’ airs, it becomes available as streaming video on Hulu Plus. I also like ‘Blue Bloods’, for which the first four completed seasons (though not the one in progress) are available on Hulu Plus.
I’ve read that there’s a limited version of Hulu at no cost, but have never seen it listed in the Roku online channel store or shown on the Hulu website. Is the ‘free version’ a myth used to promote interest in Hulu Plus? (If you know the answer, please enlighten me in the Comments section.)
I registered for the one-week free trial of Hulu Plus on the date the first 2014 season episode of ‘Blacklist’ could be viewed, which required providing my debit or credit card information. Instant gratification. That first evening I also watched several episodes of ‘Blue Bloods.’ I greatly enjoy the police procedural genre in both reading and viewing, so I realized there was a chance this show about a family of Irish Catholic cops would become addictive. It did. I was hooked after watching the pilot and two subsequent episodes.
Perfect Casting: Tom Selleck
A Near OD on 'Blue Bloods'
My normal viewing habits are usually limited to a couple of evenings per week because I read a lot, write, listen to or play music and chat with family and friends. I consider myself a ‘light’ TV/movie viewer.
Not so during my ‘free trial’ week of Hulu Plus. I almost overdosed on a marathon of ‘Blue Bloods’ every evening for a week—beginning after dinner and lasting until 1:00 a.m. or later every night and including afternoon ‘matinees’ on the weekend. I was determined to get as much value as possible out of my free trial week by watching four full seasons of this program. I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit I accomplished it!
Main Disadvantage of Hulu Plus
However, on the very first episode of this TV show I liked so much, I encountered a situation I definitely did not like: the frequent insertion of inane-to-irritating commercials before, during and after the programming. Even worse, these same commercials played during every episode of a season. By the time I completed watching the first season of ‘Blue Bloods’, the sellers of—for example—flavored potato chips or Oxyclean could not have given their products to me free of charge, and I will definitely never buy them! ARRRRGH!
It's ironic that I initially majored in marketing before changing my college major to business administration. Back then, I was captivated by the prospect of writing award-winning ads. Now, I simply find most taped commercials and print ads insulting to my intelligence. I learned the psychology of advertising too well and, because I understand its intent, easily overcome ads' insidious temptations.
Chant with me: "NO TV COMMERCIALS! NO TV COMMERCIALS! NO TV COMMERCIALS!"
My Decision, Why I Made it, and the Snafu
Long before my ‘free trial week’ of Hulu Plus was up, I made my decision. There was no way I’d pay $7.99 per month for the dubious privilege of being bombarded with idiotic commercials (even with the sound muted) before, during and after every TV show. No way!
That decision made, I not only went online at Hulu.com and completed the form to cancel my subscription two days before the ‘free week’ ended, I also phoned the Hulu customer service number, told an agent I’d canceled and acquired her promise to send me a confirmation email of said cancellation within the trial period so I would not get charged for the service I would not keep. Overkill? I thought so at the time, but as things transpired, it wasn't enough.
Imagine my ire when I checked my bank account and discovered a pending charge of $7.99 against my debit card by Hulu two days after my cancellation (within the initial one-week free trial period). I phoned customer service again, and was told by another agent that the first one made no notes to my account. She also did not send me a confirmation email. This was not an example of competent customer service personnel!
Neither could the second agent find any record of the online cancellation form I submitted—a form which asked my reason for cancelling the service. In short, even though I took the precaution of using two methods of cancellation—online and over the phone—both were ignored, and I was charged for an upcoming month of service I didn’t want.
So much for the integrity of Hulu’s ‘free trial week’ offer! Once a company has your credit or debit card information, you are at their mercy for any shady (or just plain incompetent) practices.
I leave it to readers to form your own opinions about the Hulu Plus ‘Free Trial Offer’, whether or not you’re willing to take a chance on it and either (1) cancel and expect to not be charged, or (2) decide to keep the service—innumerable commercials and all—at the rate of $7.99 per month. Your money; your choice.
By the way, Hulu Plus is now offering two free weeks if you talk your friends into also trying the service at the same time.
I caution that if you decide during the trial period you don’t want to continue the service, call Hulu customer service and ask the agent who answers for her/his name or employee number and a confirmation number denoting you actually cancelled the service within the appropriate time frame. Insist on receiving a cancellation email that same day. If you don’t, call again. At least you will be armed with evidence that you met the terms of your ‘free trial period’ if your credit or debit card is incorrectly charged and you have to do verbal battle with Hulu customer service to get a refund.
That’s another point of contention. They immediately put an authorization hold on your money and it becomes pending for payment (instantly) on the day after the free trial period. Getting your money refunded takes longer—up to a week when the company can use your money. Multiply that by all the people getting this treatment, and Hulu probably makes a tidy profit off these ‘free’ trial offers by investing other people's money on a short-term basis. I got a hint that others may have been victims of the same snafu (or was it an unplanned accident?) when I heard a message while on hold that there were 30 callers in queue before me.
That old adage, ‘There’s no free lunch’, seems proven by Hulu…at least to me. If I consider all the free viewing I crammed into one week, it may—just MAY—be worth the hassle required to get my money back and ensure the channel is canceled. I’ll have to give that some thought.
As for viewing a TV screen, I reached saturation point during my gluttonous intake of ‘Blue Bloods.’ For the foreseeable future, my TV and Roku will remain unused while I catch up on reading, writing, music, interaction with real people and other activities that make more use of my brain.
Uh-oh. I discovered that full episode videos of the current 'Blue Bloods' season become available on the CBS website after they air on the network. No doubt I'll watch the show weekly on my computer, but won't pay a fee for the privilege.
Popularity of Hulu Plus Streaming Video Service
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